About Stephen D. Lee continued
Stephen Dill Lee was married to Regina Harrison of Columbus, Mississippi, and settled in his wife’s home state when the war ended. He became a planter and beginning in 1878, served in the Mississippi State Senate.
Besides serving as a State Senator, in 1878 Lee became president of the Mississippi Agricultural and Mechanical College and remained as president until 1899. Today, this college is Mississippi State University. In 1899, he resigned his college presidency. He took an increasing interest in Confederate veteran affairs and became active in developing Vicksburg National Military Park. He also took a leading role in the formation and running of the central Confederate veterans’ organization, the United Confederate Veterans.
Stephen Dill Lee during the post war years was active in efforts to re-establish the prosperity of the South. Following his resignation as college president, he devoted his time and interest to historical work, also serving as president of the Mississippi Historical Society. He served as president of the Board of Trustees of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, zealously preserving the records of past events and of writing the true history of the South. This was important work because at that time the reputation of both Mississippi and the South was at low ebb. Lee took great pride in influencing Southern youth.
Stephen Dill Lee was an early organizer and leader in the United Confederate Veterans. He served as national commander of the United Confederate Veterans from 1904-1908 and was commander-in-chief of the UCV at the time of his death on May 29, 1908, in Vicksburg, Mississippi. He is buried in the Friendship Cemetery of Columbus, Mississippi.
Stephen Dill Lee’s influence in both the United Confederate Veterans and in the Sons of Confederate Veterans is very much in evidence today. General Lee was one of the first to realize the old veterans were rapidly passing away. He recognized a new generation would have to pick up the torch to tell the true history of the War Between the States. In 1896, in Richmond at the annual Reunion of the UCV, the Sons of Confederate Veterans organization was formed. Both the United Confederate Veterans and the Sons of Confederate Veterans continued to meet together annually but it was in 1906 at the United Confederate Veteran Reunion in New Orleans that General Lee addressed the Sons of Confederate Veterans on the need to preserve Confederate history and the good name of the Confederate soldier. It was from that address that The Charge of the Sons of Confederate Veterans is derived. General Lee could not have put it any clearer than he did —
“To you, Sons of Confederate Veterans, we will commit the vindication of the cause for which we fought. To your strength will be given the defense of the Confederate soldier’s good name, the guardianship of his history, the emulation of his virtues, the perpetuation of those principles which he loved and which you love also, and those ideals which made him glorious and which you also cherish.”
In 2005, the General Executive Council of the Sons of Confederate Veterans created the Stephen Dill Lee Institute in honor of this great Southern man and educator.
Today, at no time since General Lee defined the mission of the Sons of Confederate Veterans has there been a greater need to present a true understanding of the War Between the States. The cause for which the Confederate soldier fought must be actively defended in this time of officially imposed Political Correctness. If we allow his cause to be blackened, it will be impossible to defend the Confederate soldier even to those who may acknowledge his gallantry and skill.